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Real trophy in life

Two weeks ago, I participated in a club chess tournament not because I’m a naturally competitive and gifted (i.e. in chess) person, but to have fun and please my son. It’s an annual event when children and their parents join in a friendly competition. Some parents find excuse not to participate, such as “really hopeless in chess” and “can’t stay the whole afternoon due to other commitments.” I was the only female joiner. I was happy not because I got a lovely trophy for finishing 2nd among the parents but because my son was proud of me. He beamed with gladness recalling how his 3 friends had difficulty winning against his mum, especially that one of them said, “I had to use my tower and knight just to take your mum’s pawn.” Another added, “She didn’t give up at all, she kept on depending until her king was cornered.” His joy and pride was the most rewarding trophy for me.

I’m absolutely certain that if I finished last in that competition, he would still have been proud of me due to my willingness to share his interest and experience defeat. In chess competitions, everybody shakes his/her opponent’s hand before and after each game and winners often explain to his/her opponent how the loss could have been avoided (which contributes in the improvement of future performances). These two demonstrations of sportshumanship are not evident in other sporting competitions. As well, participants mingle or play together (other sports like football) during the break.

Okinawa 2 (I love Okinawa)

I visited Okinawa last month. Okinawa hosts 74 % of the U.S. bases on 0.6 % of the land. Despite overwhelming opposition, the Japanese government is taking the lead in efforts to build a new U.S. military base in Henoko Bay, emphasizing the deterrence value of the U.S. bases in Japan. Our policy makers want to proceed with the construction "shuku shuku to (calmly and solemnly)."

It is shockingly mindless and undemocratic to disregard the Okinawans' will. Here are some of useful websites on anti-U.S. base acitivities and protests (see the Japanese version – four of eleven sites are in English).

  1. 辺野古(新基地阻止)基金
  2. 辺野古への土砂搬出反対 協議会が発足
    (辺野古に埋め立てる土砂が足りず、多府県からけずって運搬する。すべては米軍のために ― なんとも馬鹿げている)
  3. 映画が描く沖縄基地問題と日本の選択
  4. 『戦場ぬ止み(いくさばぬとぅどぅみ)』劇場予告編
  5. 三上智恵監督インタビュー
  6. New Wave to Hope宮島玲子さんらの活動
  7. 米軍基地はもういらない〜辺野古の海を守る人々
  8. チョムスキー氏「反基地に奮闘する県民、県政を強く支持」
  9. "All Japan" versus "All Okinawa" - Abe Shinzo's Military-Firstism 「オール・ジャパン」対「オール沖縄」 安倍晋三の軍事最優先主義
  10. Economics of U.S. base redevelopment sway Okinawa mindset
  11. Looking at Flaws in the Henoko Landfill Permit Process from the Standpoint of the Right to Self-determination

大好きだよ沖縄 2(希望としてのおきなわ)

20代の頃、ベニスのある詩人にたずねた。「イタリアの人は、どうしてこんなに温かいのだろう?」すると。「クリマ、クリマ (clima, clima)」気候のせいだよ、という即答がかえってきた。

沖縄を初めて訪問して、あの時をふと思い出した。ふんわかとした温気を感じる。

辺野古の新基地建設に反対し、座りこみをする人たちの顔に笑顔があった。前にどこかで、会ったことがあると思った。ホロコースト体験や、政治的弾圧や拷問などの痛苦をくぐりぬけた人たちの穏やかさに似ている。講演で聞いたエリ・ヴィーゼルの、静かに謙虚でおちついた口調のようだった。

。。。下につづく

Beauty, Love and Health

Lately, I've been bumping into online photos of Pierce Brosnan (James Bond Golden Eye, Mamma Mia, TV series Remington Steele, etc.) and his wife. There seems to be a fascination for the couple's physical attributes: “Pierce Brosnan should be able to get any woman he wants, but the 60-year-old is sticking with his overweight wife” (Celebromance.com March 7/14), which I find stomach-turning. Most women, me included, would exchange place with Kelly any time to have the love and devotion of a partner or husband. Likewise, we rather be with a physically unattractive but faithful and caring spouse than otherwise.

Our concept of beauty is learned and transmitted through family values, cultural traditions and socialisation via formal education, entertainment and the media (print, audio-visual and internet). Generally, beauty is not only about face and weight; it involves smell, movements and a combination of all the individual's qualities that please our senses and mind.

Beauty is the label we attach to different criteria based on what we've been(and are..) socialised into, experienced and exposed to regularly. It is relative and not universal as it means different things to different people. For example, Samoans and Mauritanians consider big women as more desirable and make better wives. (“Samoa's prime minister has called for his nation's women to stay away from international beauty contests because they favour skinny and scrawny-looking women” (Samoaobserver, 6/10/13).

Okinawa 1

I would like to share this song titled "Okinawa, Let's stand up now" -- it is about decades of Okinawan struggle (ongoing) and is written by Hiroji Yamashiro (lyrics) at the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Center. The song is originally in French, I think (Ah! Le joli mois de Mai à Paris), a protest hymn of May 1968.

大好きだよ沖縄 1

「沖縄 今こそ立ち上がろう」

作詞は山城博治(沖縄平和運動センター議長)さん。5月11日付けの沖縄タイムスで、彼が入院中であることを知った。どんなに悔しいことだろう。

辺野古では今日もこの曲が歌われていることだろう。「美しき五月のパリ」(Ah! Le joli mois de Mai à Paris) のメロディーにあわせて。

沖縄の()()は 沖縄が(ひら)
戦さ世を(こば)み 平和に生きるため
今こそ立ち上がろう 今こそ(ふる)い立とう

。。。下につづく

Give and Take

PERSONAL AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, SOCIETY
GIVING AND RECEIVING

Life is about giving and receiving. This gift isn’t always an object or money, but it can be time, compliment, appreciation, blood, care or affection. Such giving and receiving cements a relationship. If it’s only one side, i.e. either giving or receiving, there’s an imbalance that leads to discontentment and failure.

Not so long ago, staffers of Badoit in France offered their colleague 170 days off so that he could look after his son of 9 years who’s suffering from cancer. It wasn’t possible for this employee and his wife to stop working or reduce their working hours due to their financial commitments and difficulties. A petition was circulated in the company, and each personnel was given the opportunity to give days of their paid annual leave. This is a real demonstration of kindness and solidarity. The media reported him saying, “This gift, I will be grateful to my colleagues to my last breath.” He and his wife have since created an association to help families in the same situation. (A law was passed by the French National Assembly in January 2012 allowing employees to “offer” their days off to colleagues who need time to be with their sick child).

Two weeks ago, while in the bus to Luxembourg, I heard a French radio announcer commenting ecstatically on US CEO Dan Price’s slashing of his salary by 90% and dipping into company profits to give his employees a pay rise, i.e. at least US$70,000 annually in the next three years. When I mentioned this to my students, several of them commented that it’s easy to give when you’ve too much and what you give doesn’t impact negatively on your lifestyle, or when it benefits you (e.g. tax reason). Well, it’s easy to criticise when you’re not the direct recipient of such generosity.

アンティ・フラジリティ 。。。抗· 脆弱の国

もう10年以上も前のこと。隣のおばちゃんが聞いてきた。

「さっちゃんのご主人はナニ人? アメリカ人、イギリス人、ドイツ人、フランス人?それとも、イタリア人?」

主人という家父長制の古めかしい言葉に、たじろぐ私。

おばちゃんはお構いなしに、興味津々である。

「それとも・・・?」

「ぁの・・・・。宇宙人なんですぅ」と応える。

おばちゃん。大爆笑。

「かおるはね、離婚したのよ」 かおるちゃんはおばちゃんの娘で、私の幼なじみである。

「大丈夫。失敗は成功のもと」 はげます 私。おばちゃん、また爆笑。

。。。下につづく

Mental health and safety concerns

First and foremost, our condolences to families, relatives and friends of the 150 passengers on board Germanwings A320 Airbus flight 4U 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf that went down in a French mountain. According to media reports, the victims included 72 Germans (16 were school students), 51 Spaniards, and those from Argentina, Australia, Britain, Colombia, Denmark, Iran, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the US and Venezuela.

The following is AirlineRatings.com's 2015 annual list of the world's 10 safest airlines: Australian airline Qantas ("Continues to lead the industry with safety innovations and its fleet is now the youngest -- 7.9 years," AirlineRatings.com editor Geoffrey Thomas tells CNN). The others, in alphabetical order, are: Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines. (see CNN's "What are the world's safest airlines?").

Lufthansa owns Germanwings, and its reputed safety measures didn't prevent a psychotic deed from killing innocent people. The cockpit voice recorder's information suggests that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz took over the control of the plane and crashed it. There have been reports of Lubitz' depression as the reason for such tragedy. This incident, no doubt, will make airline companies more stringent when hiring personnel and conducting compulsory mental and psychological examinations of all flight crew members (in addition to the physical ones).

Losing a parent or loved one

My dad passed away on the first Thursday of February this year and I wasn’t able to attend his funeral (as that of my mother a decade ago) because I had influenza, couldn’t take an instant time off from work and a host of other reasons related to distance between 2 continents. His death, like that of my mum, reminded me of my own mortality and the urgency to live fully every day. (Oddly, I didn't think that I would become an orphan one day).

I hadn't gotten over yet with the loss of my mum and then my dad; and these days I often find myself recollecting childhood memories. They knew me better than anyone else and I wish they were here. Why aren’t they here now when I need them most? I was never dependent on them for moral, emotional and financial support since I left home at the age of 16 to go to university in another region, but I still feel the vacuum. As they say “you are always your parent’s child,” and I suppose such a loss doesn’t fade with time or age.

My relationship with my dad was harmonious but there were resentments due to hurts and misunderstandings resulting from his and my mother's life as a couple on one hand and as parents on the other. Their death has made me reassessed the past while dealing with the present and planning for the future.

Charlie... a month later

You certainly have heard a lot about the January 7, 2015 tragic shootings in Paris of 12 cartoonists, journalists and staff of newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The day after that, I received emails from friends worldwide, notably from Australia, expressing their profound sadness and sympathy -- describing such brutal act as a bloody offence against freedom of speech, liberty and peace. My responses included notes on immigration, identity, social inequality and education.

Global solidarity poured in instantly and there was a historic gathering of heads of states and communities in Paris on the 11th. Virgils and gatherings of support and commemorations took place in many cities in France, England, the USA and other countries, which were moving and impressive.

During that week, my French friend apologised for being late in responding to my email because she was distressed with what happened in Paris. I was intrigued by her testimony that I asked her if I could publish her write-up. I have translated it in English, and the French version follows after.

"I do not agree with what you write, but I will defend to death your right to write about what you think." This was written in the 18th century by Voltaire who experienced life in prison and exile for his writings that displeased people in power.

わたしは健二

أنا كانجي

أنا لست شينزو

إعطونا فرصة للسلام

 

私は健二。

私は安倍じゃない。

平和を我等に。

 

Je suis Kenji. Je ne suis pas Abe.

Donnez une chance à la paix.

 

I am Kenji. I am not Abe.

Give peace a chance.

More in ''Mother of Japanese Isis hostage Kenji Goto makes tearful appeal'' (source: journal The Guardian)

Giving, Receiving and Reviewing

Happy New Year To You and Your Loved Ones!

Three weeks ago, one of my friends asked his wife what she wanted to receive as presents. Without hesitation, she said “love.” His eyes widened and said he meant something tangible. (Love is complex and unquantifiable and we need something to represent it). He insisted, “What can I buy for you?”

Nowadays, in many societies, cost is associated with love. The more we love the person, the more we spend on gifts (presents). There is a tendency to express appreciation in terms of “how much?” Gone are the days when handmade and creative inexpensive presents were valued as meaningful and memorable.

There are many occasions in our lives when we give presents: birthday, wedding, graduation, etc. Gift giving is universal and important in any relationship. Dictionaries define gift as a thing (for me, service as well) given willingly to someone without payment (I add, ‘not expecting something in return’) How about re-gifting? Have you given something that you had received from someone else? It’s environmentally and financially worthwhile to do this; however, a recipient may have a different view. When you receive a regift, what do you think and feel about it? Being the second born of 5 children and having both rich & poor cousins and both needy & generous friends, I am used to giving and receiving pre-loved belongings. I believe that sharing our possessions and experiences is part of being humane.

This year and beyond

The year is coming to an end, and this is my last article in 2014. We've read and heard a lot about crimes, illnesses, injustices, the Ukraine crisis, shoot down of Malaysian Air Flight 17 with nearly 300 people on board, abduction of Nigerian girls, Ebola virus and on-going Middle East conflicts.

In fact, there are more happy stories and remarkable progresses than gloomy ones. There have been useful research findings and inventions, such as robotic exoskeletons that can provide support to a ravaged body that needs to heal. There are now about 3 billion people in the world who have Internet access. The FIFA World Cup, which was held in Brazil from June 12 to July 13 and won by Germany, was a success. The Rosetta spacecraft's Philae probe landed on Comet 67P, which was the first time in history. National and international laws have been introduced and collaborations established to combat organised and cyber crime, terrorism and tax evasion (e.g. US FATCA - Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act that requires US citizens, including those who live outside the US, to report their financial accounts held outside the country; and obliges foreign financial institutions to disclose to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) information about their U.S. clients. This increases national tax revenues as it makes it difficult for US taxpayers to conceal assets abroad). There have been local and global meetings, conferences, working parties, fund-raising events and other gatherings addressing social, political, economic and environmental concerns.

Illegal drone flights and iodine pills

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